The chantings of the group reached a fever's pitch before they all fell to the ground, seemingly insensate. Slowly, so slowly she seemed not to move of her own volition, a tall young woman rose to her feet and removed the hood of her robe. "It has been shown to me," she said softly.
All eyes turned to her. She smiled a bedimpled smile, her eyes shining with the light of insanity. "The means to avenge our lord Marcos has been shown to me."
"Tell us Sister, how!" came the chorus.
She studied a point off in the distance as she spoke. "The one with raven hair is half of a whole. He shares his heart with another. Freely, openly, unreservedly."
"Speak, Sister," a man said. "Tell us more!"
"How can a man function with half a heart?" she asked, her voice rising in excitement. "Cut out the other half of his heart and he will cease to function!"
A murmur of appreciation wafted through the group, then another woman called, "Sister, name this other!"
The speaker looked at her. "The other is the one with hair as the sunshine. Cut him out -- and Starsky will no longer be a threat to us."
The group roared its approval.
"Dammit!" was the first word Hutch heard as he arrived at Starsky's house to bring him a surprise invitation to Huggy's on their day off.
"Starsk?" he asked, walking on inside. "What's wrong?"
"Dammit," Starsky said quieter, flinging his mail onto the coffee table. "Why the hell can't they just leave me alone?"
Frowning, Hutch picked up the discarded mail. He saw a photograph of a charred, twisted hunk of metal. It was recognizable as having once been a car, but the make, model and colour of it were now undecipherable by the photo alone. Across it, in red magic marker, was written, "4 U Starsky".
"Who sent this?" he asked his partner.
With a sigh, Starsky flopped on the couch, flinging an arm over his eyes. "Who else would wanna terrorize me?"
The black curls dipped in a single nod. Then he sat up, his azure eyes determined. "Know what, Blintz? I am not gonna let this get me down. Let's go to Huggy's Place --- let's have fun tonight!"
"Sounds like a plan to me." Hutch looked at the picture. "Are we gonna report this?"
"They can't do anything to me now," Starsky said with his famous smile. "Marcos is in jail. They're just tryin' to creep me out."
"I hope you're right, babe," Hutch whispered, eyes still on the picture. "I sincerely hope you're right."
Two days later, the partners were headed down to the garage after work. Starsky stopped short. "Hey--- what in the world..."
"Hey!" Hutch yelled, running over to his car. "Hey, what's going on?"
The officer looked up from where he was bent over Hutch's car. He held a dog on a leash. "Sorry, Sergeant -- but we were doing a training exercise in the garage and Tracer here picked up something odd in your car.... he's trained to smell plastique, so we're going over your vehicle to make certain it's not been tampered with."
Hutch took a step back. "Plastique?"
Starsky hadn't moved from where he stopped. His eyes widened as the red magic marker from the photo was suddenly superimposed on the scene in his mind. '4 U Starsky'.....
"Hutch!" he cried. "Come back here! Parker, you and Tracer get back, just in case...."
Confused, Hutch turned back toward Starsky. Parker and Tracer obeyed the Sergeant. "Just in case what?"
"Don't argue!" Starsky cried out. "Just get back over here! I got a bad feeling about this!"
Now Hutch was worried. "You and your bad feelings." He took a step toward Starsky, then two --
And his car disintegrated into a fireball. Parker and Tracer were thrown backwards by the force of the explosion, ending up with Parker leaned up against a support strut and Tracer on his lap. Hutch was blown forward into Starsky with such force they were both knocked down. Starsky frantically patted out the fire on Hutch's jacket and bellowed, "Someone call an ambulance!"
Captain Dobey looked up as the building shook. "Now what's happened?" he sighed.
Down in the garage, Starsky held his unconscious partner while he waited for the paramedics to arrive. He lay his hand on the side of Hutch's face, covering his ear, holding him and rocking him slightly back and forth. An odd look came over his face and he pulled his hand away, going pale when he looked at it.
His hand, at the point it had rested on Hutch's ear, was bloody.
"Oh G-d, no...." Starsky breathed.
Dobey arrived at the hospital's waiting room and prepared to go in to check on his man---
Only to be stopped by a thin hand with impossibly long, incredibly strong fingers placed RIGHT on his chest. "Uh-uh, no way no how, Cap-man," Huggy Bear said, shaking his head, eyes like steel flint. "You gonna give him some space."
"Look, this is police business, and I could have you arrested for --"
"This is friendship business now, Cap," Huggy said. "Let 'em deal with that 'fore you come bustin' in on 'em playin' Marshall Dillon."
Dobey took a deep breath. Much as he hated to admit it.... "All right. I got what I need for right now from Parker. When he's able, I do need a statement from him."
He turned to go, and that strong hand closed on his arm. "Hold up there. Just remembered." He pulled a folded stack of papers from one of the seemingly inexhaustible pockets in his thin jacket. "He gave me this for you. Said it was from one of those cultist joes who got him awhile back. Said it may be important."
Dobey looked down at the photograph with the magic marker scrawl, then up at Huggy. "He was right. If you get any more information --"
"You'll be the first to know, Marshall."
Karen Morrison was bending over her blonde patient, reaching to check the settings on the IV drip, when a pair of beautiful blue eyes fluttered open. "Well," she smiled, looking down at him. "Hello there, Sergeant. Nice to see you've rejoined the land of the living."
Hutch looked up at her blankly.
She smoothed some hair from his forehead. "We were getting a little worried there. We thought for a few moments you ---" She stopped, watching as fear began to replace the blankness in his eyes. “Sergeant?"
The fear grew.
Karen licked her lips. "Sergeant Hutchinson?"
He just looked at her.
She licked her lips and looked at the door. Then she turned back to him. With a shaky hand, she pointed at him, then slowly pointed at her own ear, eyebrows raising in a question.
After a long moment, the blonde head shook slowly from side to side.
"Omig-d...." She reached across him to press the call button.
Hutch grabbed the wrist that was snaking across him. "Starsky," he said. "Get Starsky."
She looked at him, eyes going wide in confused surprise.
"Get Starsky," he repeated. "Starsky. Star-sky."
It was only when she held up a finger and extricated her arm, then pulled a notebook and pen from the pocket of her uniform, that he realised no sound had come from his throat.
Karen came into the waiting room a few moments later. "Is there a Mister Star-Sky here?"
Starsky rose to his feet. "It's Starsky," he said, correcting her pronunciation. The fact that he had to do that alarmed him. "What's happened?"
She showed him the pad. "I apologize," she said.
His eyes grew wide as he recognised Hutch's distinctive handwriting. "Get Starsky" -- each word underlined twice. "Why did he write this?" he half-whispered. "Why didn't he say it?"
"Come with me, please," Karen said.
He grabbed her arm. "He can't speak, can he? He wrote it down because he can't speak!"
"Mister Starsky, a doctor really should be the one --"
"I wanna hear it from you!" Starsky said. "Please!"
She looked at him for a long minute.
"Please!" he repeated.
Karen lowered her eyes. "No. He can't speak. And...."
"And what? What else?"
"....he can't hear."
Starsky's azure eyes grew huge and round as he stared at her. Hutch he mouthed, releasing her and taking a few steps toward Hutch's room.
"Mister Starsky, " Karen began.
But the raven-haired detective was on the move. A guided missile, he tore down the hallway and exploded into Hutch's room.
Hutch turned his head at the flurry of movement out of the corner of his eye. Starsky stood in the doorway, eyes wide and wet, mouth moving, speaking words Hutch could no longer understand. The mute detective's reply to the sight of him was more eloquent than any words could ever be.
He cranked the bed up slightly and held out his hand.
Instantly Starsky had that hand in both of his. He pulled a chair by the bedside and sat, pressing his partner's hand to his dampening cheek. Hutch's hand squeezed his so tight he felt a finger or two go numb, but he didn't care.
"We'll get through this, babe," he whispered, knowing Hutch couldn't hear him, but not caring at the moment. "It's still me and thee....it'll always be me and thee....we'll get through this, Blintz, we'll get through this....somehow...I swear...." With all that was in him, he willed Hutch to somehow understand him -- to feel what he could no longer hear.
Hutch pushed against his cheek, and Starsky looked up.
A determined look was on Hutch's face. With his free hand, he patted his own chest twice. Then he reached and with that same hand, patted Starsky's cheek twice. Then he clapped the hand on the knot of three hands and gave a hard, determined nod.
The message had been received --- and agreed with.
Knowing knocking would be useless now, Starsky pushed open the door to Hutch's room. Hutch looked up and smiled, as did the brown-haired woman sitting on his bed.
Starsky did a double-take. "Am I interrupting something?" he asked the woman.
She chuckled and moved her hands, which made Hutch's shoulders shake with laughter. "Mister Star-sky, I presume?"
He rolled his eyes. "It's Starsky." Without Hutch to correct the pronunciation, everyone seemed to assume it was pronounced as it was spelled. "And you are --?"
"Katherine Dugan, occupational therapist. My friends call me Kathy."
He shook her hand. "And you're here to help Hutch adjust to deafness?"
He blinked. "...what?"
"I came to teach Mister Hutchinson sign language, but I got a pleasant surprise." She moved her hands, looking at Hutch.
Hutch looked at Starsky and with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, his hands moved in fluid motions. Kathy's voice said in time with the movements, "I already know it, Gordo -- Gordo??? -- my grandmother was deaf."
Starsky's jaw dropped open, then a smile and tears of uncontained pride erupted simultaneously. "....Hutch..."
The blonde kept 'talking', and Kathy translated, "So she's here to teach you sign language, pal. You're gonna learn the language I'm forced to speak so we can communicate. Like we agreed, partner -- me and you."
"Me and thee," he corrected Kathy in a whisper. "It's me and thee --- and how do you say always -- and what's the sign for his name?"
Turning her back to Hutch, she showed him. Then he nodded and shakily said to his deaf partner, *Always, Hutch. Me and thee always.*
And Kathy watched as the pair embraced, crying. //They're closer than brothers,// she thought. //It's almost like they're two halves of a whole.//
Dobey marched out of his office. "What the hell is this?" he bellowed, gesturing to Starsky and Hutch's desks.
Two phones rested on them now -- one with a small keyboard and a place for a receiver to sit. Starsky's voice came from under the desk. "They're called TTYs, Captain. They're how Hutch can get phone calls."
"Look, this junk is unnecessary," Dobey said. "When he can hear again, he'll be back at --"
Starsky rolled from under the desk and sat up. "Cap, he's not going to hear again."
Dobey blinked. "...what?"
"Sylvia -- Dr. Geyer -- confirmed it today. His deafness is permanent."
"Damn. Starsky, I'm sorry..."
Starsky smiled and waved a hand. "It'll be okay, Cap. I'm working on this and our apartments, getting them all set up for him. He lives in a different world now, and I'm going to be his liaison to our, hearing world."
"Look, Starsky, you need to think realistically about --"
"I know what you're gonna say, Cap." Starsky lifted a file folder and handed it to Dobey. "Inside there are materials that should explain it all. Also in there are our letters."
Dobey blinked again. "Letters? What kind of letters?"
"I will not work with any partner but Hutch. He wants nothing more than to return to duty. The letters in there are approved medical leaves of absences -- with pay -- for as long as is necessary for us to adjust to this and hone our skills again. We will return together --- as a well-oiled machine -- or we will not return at all."
"Starsky, this is ridiculous! You can't just --"
He smiled. "It's already done, sir." He looked at his watch. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment at the hospital. He nodded and was gone.
Dobey just stood there, mouth open, file dangling from his fingers. At long last, though nobody was there to hear, he asked, "When? When did I lose control of those two?"
Hutch healed rapidly, learned just as rapidly. Soon he was reading lips, and while he was by no means fluent in a language he could not hear, he was still able to follow what was happening. He had been released into Starsky's care, with frequent checkups by Dr. Geyer and visits by Kathy.
With them both on a leave of absence, Hutch and Starsky both devoted their time to honing their partnership to incorporate this new development. They moved into one apartment to facilitate matters. There were still moments of depression, though -- as in one night when Hutch rose from the table and told Starsky *I can't remember your voice anymore.* Then he left the room.
"I know, pal," Starsky whispered. He was more fluent at signing than his flaxen-haired partner was at lip-reading. "I can barely remember yours too..."
Hutch was returning home from jogging one morning, when a beautiful border collie dog rushed at him. Letting out a silent cry of shock, he ran out of the dog's path, only to have it knock him down and lick his face. He chuckled silently, hugging the animal. He finally managed to sit up, only to see Starsky and a small woman with light brown hair standing watching with identical bedimpled smiles.
At Hutch's frown, Starsky signed, *This is Shelly Day. She's a trainer for helper animals like Honey here.*
*Honey?* Hutch looked at the dog. *Her name is Honey?*
Starsky nodded. *Honey Hutchinson.*
Hutch's eyes opened wide. *What?*
Shelly stepped forward. *She's been trained to use her ears in the place of yours, much as seeing-eye dogs do for the blind.*
*Got her for you, Blintz,* Starsky signed. *Happy birthday.*
Hutch blinked. It was his birthday. With all that had happened, he'd forgotten! And there was his partner, always thinking of him. His attack had put Starsky on edge, out of a private home, out of work temporarily ---
And he still only thought of Hutch.
In front of Honey, in front of Shelly, Hutch thanked his partner in the only way he knew how at that moment. He threw his arms around him and his tears of gratitude and love soaked Starsky's leather jacket.
Starsky held the blonde head still, and his own eyes overflowed. Against Hutch's back, he signed, *I love you, brother mine.*
And Hutch nodded, letting the devotion wash over him like the tide, soaking it into his soul where it began to heal the childhood wounds inside of him as well.
Hutch walked into Dobey's office, all smiles. He plopped himself down in a chair in front of the desk and waited.
Dobey looked up briefly, then gave a double-take as he looked up again. "Hutchinson??"
Reading his lips, Hutch smiled and nodded.
"What...." The question died as Hutch held up a hand for silence.
Starsky and a black and white dog ran in a second later. "Here he is, Honey," Starsky said.
"Starsky, what in the world..." Dobey gasped, looking at the dog.
"This is Honey," Starsky said. "Hutch's ears."
"Hutch's what?" Dobey gasped, looking at Hutch.
Hutch raised his hands, but Starsky's voice interpreted the signs. *She's my ears, Captain. She hears things and alerts me to what they are.*
"Now how in the hell--" And his phone rang.
Honey's ears shot forward and she grabbed Hutch's sleeve with her mouth, pulling his hand toward the phone. He raised his other hand, shoulders shaking in silent laughter. *Your phone is ringing.*
When Starsky translated, Dobey's eyes went wide. He picked up the phone and conversed briefly with forensics, then hung it up. "Incredible," he breathed, looking at Honey. "Absolutely incredible."
"We think so," Starsky said. "Cap, we want on the Marcos case."
Dobey blinked. "The what?"
"The Marcos case," Starsky repeated. "We know from the threats I received that it was them who planted the bomb in Hutch's car and cost my partner his hearing and speech. We want to build a case and catch the people who did this to him."
"Starsky, there are two things wrong with this request."
Starsky grinned. "Only two?"
"Give me time," Dobey growled. He held up a hand and Starsky began to translate as the hand blocked his mouth from Hutch's view. "One, it has been nearly six months. The trail has gone from cold to icy by now. Two --" he sighed. "Quite frankly, and quite bluntly, your partner is deaf and mute. That combination is too dangerous on the streets."
Hutch leaned forward, his face dark. With Starsky repeating his words, he said in a clipped fashion, *Captain, I may be deaf and mute but I am still Hutch. I can cover his ass and he can cover mine. We are still partners. Even if you separate us, we are still partners. That will not change.* He leaned back and finished, *Because we are brothers, Captain. Blood brothers.*
Starsky looked at Dobey. "And quite frankly and quite bluntly, I will not work with any partner but Hutch."
Dobey sighed. "I gave you my reasons, gentlemen. There is nothing else to say."
Hutch nodded and stood up. *Very well then, Captain.*
Dobey nodded. "Hutch?"
The blonde's eyebrows raised in a silent question.
The captain handed him a file. "You don't have this, understood?"
Hutch nodded and they left the office.
In the elevator, Starsky nudged Hutch. *Is that what I think it is?*
Hutch rifled through it for a moment, then broke into a dazzling grin. *The information on the Marcos cult and forensics on the bomb.*
And Honey's bark rose to combine with Starsky's cheers and the sound of their hands pounding each other's shoulders as they hugged in celebration.
Unofficially, the 'Me and Thee Team' was back on the streets.
Starsky stood up and stretched till his back popped almost audibly. He turned and waved a hand. When Hutch looked up from the files, he signed, *You hungry, Blintz?*
Hutch nodded, a smile on his face. *Huggy’s?*
*After we spring for some beer. Icebox is empty.*
*Great idea!* he got to his feet and clapped his hands twice. Honey came running and he scratched behind her ears. He stood up and grinned at Starsky. *You are buying.* With that, he left.
Starsky followed, chuckling and shaking his head.
The blonde coming out of the grocery store nearly dropped her groceries at the sight of the pair getting out of the Torino. "It's him!" she gasped, eyes going huge. "It's the chosen one --- and the other half of his soul! How... how? We killed him!"
Starsky sat on the couch. Huggy's had been fun, and Hutch had been tired. He'd crashed the minute they got in.
But Starsky couldn't bring himself to go to bed. His thoughts whirled with the changes in his own life now. It was as if he were Hutch's link now -- his connection to the world of the hearing. He sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. "What a responsibility," he said aloud.
Honey whined and lifted her head from her paws, cocking her ears.
Starsky smiled. "You heard me! We're both kinda his ears, aren't we?"
Honey sat up and yipped.
Starsky got up and moved around the room. He saw Hutch's guitar sitting in the corner and picked it up. He blew the dust off it and sat down, tuning it. "He used to be quite the singer," he told Honey. At her vocalization, he went on, "Oh yeah! He could pick and sing with the best of 'em!"
Starsky found himself plucking out the opening chords to one of his favourite songs. He sang it softly, till he heard Honey's ecstatic bark. Looking up, he saw Hutch standing in the doorway. He paled, feeling horribly guilty at enjoying himself playing music that his partner could no longer hear.
But Hutch was smiling. *Couldn't sleep,* he signed, walking over and sitting in front of Starsky. *Came to get something to drink , and saw you.*
*Hutch, I'm sorry. I didn't mean--*
Hutch held up a hand. *Keep playing.*
Starsky's jaw dropped open.
The blonde's shoulders shook with silent giggles. *Keep playing. I mean it. You need to hear music. I love to watch you having fun. Keep playing. Sing it.*
Hesitantly, Starsky did. The chords of the familiar song rolled from the frets and strings. Hutch leaned forward and placed his hand on the body of the guitar. His smile widened as he felt the vibrations of the instrument as his partner played.
Starsky began to softly sing. The song was slow enough Hutch could easily read his lips. It was one of Starsky's favourite songs --- Jim Croce's "Operator".
Hutch swayed to the beat he could feel. He measured the words till Starsky reached a certain part in the song. Then he sat back and mouthed them as Starsky sang them and as his own hands tapped the familiar drum riff onto the table. Together, they sang and played the song, losing themselves in the moment, in the music.
When the song ended, both were smiling. Both had tears coursing down their cheeks. Starsky set the guitar aside and they hugged, Honey's happy barking ringing in Starsky's ears.
Quite by accident, they'd found a way for them both to enjoy music once more!
"Sister, this cannot be!"
She shook her head. "I tell you, I saw the blonde devil! I swear it by our Lord Marcos's soul!"
The other woman sighed. "Then we must try once more."
"This time there will be no mistake." She flung the point of a dagger into the wall. "This time they both will feel the sacrificial flame."
Starsky brought the groceries in and set them on the counter. The phone was ringing off its hook. He looked toward the living room and smiled.
Completely engrossed in his book, Hutch hadn't even noticed the insistent blinking of the light. Honey lay at his feet, looking at Starsky with a smug expression.
"Knew I'd get it, huh?" Starsky teased the dog.
Honey yipped and yawned. She appeared for all the world to nod as she lay back down.
"Smartass puppy," Starsky giggled as he picked up the phone. "Yeah?"
"Tonight you will feel the flames!" a chorus of voices wailed before the line went dead.
Starsky blinked, holding the phone away from his ear. Then his face darkened and he growled, slamming it onto the hook.
Startled, Honey looked up. she gave a yip of concern and leapt into Hutch's lap, knocking the book out of his hands.
Hutch looked up, shocked. Shock turned to concern as he saw Starsky. He walked over to him after extricating himself from Honey. *Buddy, what's wrong?*
Starsky glowered at him. *Marcos.*
*Shit. What now?*
Starsky told him, then signed, *I'm going for a walk. Back in an hour.*
*Always.* And he left.
Hutch nibbled on a thumbnail for a moment, then sat down at a small desk and turned on his computer. He dialed a number and lay his phone on the TTY receiver.
//Hey, Blondie, my main silent one, how's it hanging? GA//
Hutch cracked a grin. He hadn't even needed to say hello -- he was the only one Huggy knew that was deaf. He shook his head slightly. Even on a computer screen, Huggy could still sound like Huggy. GA was shorthand for "Message over, go ahead with yours".
//It's hanging. Look, we got a phone call today that's got Starsk weirded out. Think you can put out a few feelers for me? GA//
//Sure, no problemo. Give me the gist. GA//
//Marcos's people threatened us. "Tonight you will feel the flames". Starsky said it was a babble of voices. GA//
He could imagine the whistle Huggy let out when he read that. //Serious stuff, my man. Serious. Marshall know of this? GA//
Hutch smiled openly now. Huggy was the only one who dared call Dobey Marshall Dillon. //Not yet. Just happened. Huggy I don’t really know what to do. GA//
//What you mean by THAT? GA//
//You KNOW what I mean by that! We've tried, practiced...but now that it's here, I'm scared, Huggy. What if I let him down or worse? What if he gets killed? GA//
//What ifs will get you sick, Blondie. You two are the best. You DO your best and you'll see, it'll be fine. Now get off the blower and call Marshall. GA//
//Roger. Over and out. GA//
//Oh? What? GA//
//That a mute can be such a damn smartass! GA//
Hutch's shoulders quaked with laughter. //Learned from the best. Later.// and he cut the connection.
Starsky was on his way back home an hour later. He'd had a lot to think about and a lot to consider.
Hutch and he were partners. No matter what, they'd be together.
Even if it meant Starsky's leaving the police force altogether.
He rounded the block and had the house in view. He sighed and moved toward it. Guilt stabbed at his heart at what he had to tell Hutch.
For a brief moment, he had considered severing the partnership to protect Hutch.
But ultimately, he'd decided their friendship was more important than anything else. That knowledge had made his earlier thoughts seem childish and silly.
He made his way to the stoop of his house and put his foot on the bottom stair.
A small explosion sounded in his ears and pain ripped through his right side. He barely had time to take notice of it as he toppled to the ground. "...hutch...." he whispered, feeling himself lose his grip on consciousness.
There was a flash of black across his field of vision, the sound of an animal's snarls, and three more explosions before Starsky slid into blessed oblivion.
In retrospect, he had been very lucky. There had only been four of them.
Hutch lowered his weapon and ran to his fallen partner's side. His shots had downed three of the perps, and Honey had the fourth cowered in the alley. A grim smile touched his face. His gentle hearing-ear dog was doing the best impression of a rabid canine he'd ever seen.
//Smarter'n she looks,// he thought, touching Starsky's face. //Come on, Gordo...come on...//
Starsky moved and under his fingers Hutch felt a slight vibration. //He groaned! He's still alive....YES!// Assessing the situation quickly, he raced back inside and fired up his computer.
/Bay City Emergency, may I help you? GA/
/I need several ambulances and police at 1334 Front Lane! I'm a police officer and there are several men down -- one of them my partner! Contact Captain Dobey of the BCPD and let him know what's happened! GA/
/On their way. Any other assistance I can render? GA/
/Pray./ And Hutch shut down the TTY and ran to the scene again. Nothing had changed.
When the police arrived, Hutch clapped his hands twice. Honey was suddenly once more the sweet, gentle dog she'd always been. She trotted to his side and he hugged her and nuzzled her as the woman she'd cowed was arrested.
Hutch then got into the front of the ambulance carrying Starsky. With Honey at his feet, they sped toward the hospital.
Dobey and Huggy met Hutch in the waiting room several hours later.
Huggy grinned. *Bit of a role-reversal going on here, Blondie!*
Hutch smiled slightly. *From a few months ago, yeah. He's still in surgery. Any news for me?*
Dobey nodded and tried to sign, but ended up with his fingers all tangled up. Almost in spite of themselves, Hutch and Huggy found themselves laughing. Even Honey gave a nearly amused-sounding yip.
Finally Dobey let Huggy translate. "There was a business card found on one of the assailants. It led us to the warehouse district, then to another barn. We think this time we've got all of Marcos's cultists."
*I hope so, Captain,* Hutch said via Huggy's translation. *I really really hope so. This needs to finally be over.*
At long last, the doctor emerged. Once Hutch's deafness was explained to him -- and thus the need for Honey to be with him --- he was able to tell them about Starsky.
When the news was delivered, Hutch sank into a chair, tears of exhaustion and relief finally flowing.
Twenty minutes later, Huggy and Dobey smiled at each other as they viewed the sight from a few months ago -- oddly reversed.
The blonde head bent over the dark this time, and no words were spoken because Hutch could not speak. But hand rested firmly in hand as the other one stroked a hot forehead. Hutch willed Starsky to feel the love and concern flowing from him. He willed his unconscious partner to come back to him, hale and whole.
//We're brothers, Gordo. Where it counts. I love you and without you my life is meaningless. Come on, buddy....please wake up. Please.//
"The bullet did what?" Starsky gasped, hardly able to believe what he was hearing.
"Went through your appendix," the doctor smiled at him. "Clean through. Missed your kidney completely, missed all the bones completely, went right into your body, through your appendix, and out the front of your body without damaging a single major organ!"
Starsky wiped his mouth and chin, then looked at Hutch. *Hell of a way to get appendicitis!*
Hutch threw his head back and laughed hard, his whole body convulsing with it.
Starsky wrinkled his nose at the salad before him. *Oh give me a break...*
*What?* Hutch looked wounded. *I'll have you know that is taco salad, thank you very much!*
A skeptical eyebrow raise was Starsky's only comment.
Hutch gave a sigh that, though silent, managed to convey extreme annoyance. *Doctor said you can't have too much spice yet. So rather than sit through your complaints about not having Mexican, I made you a Mexican salad!*
Starsky picked up his fork and began to gingerly poke at the salad. Suddenly his head jerked up and a look of relief came over his face. Honey began to nudge at Hutch's leg, the one furthest from the living room. Hutch glanced upward, to see the flashing light that indicated the doorbell was being rung. *I got it,* he signed, looking at Starsky. *You. Eat.*
Perhaps it was a good thing he couldn't hear the mumbled words Starsky threw at him as he poked at the salad again.
Hutch opened the door to find both Dobey and Huggy there. *Hi! What're you doing here?*
Huggy laughed. *Marshall's got something for you and I tagged along. Are we gonna stay on the street?*
Blinking, then chuckling at himself, Hutch stepped aside and waved them inside. *Starsky's in the kitchen.*
Starsky looked up as they entered. "Please tell me you brought a double burrito!"
Huggy shook his head. "No can do, m'main dark one. Doc's not given you the a-ok yet."
With a moan, Starsky dropped his head in his hands.
Dobey smiled. "I'll bet you're wondering why we're here."
*The thought had crossed my mind, yeah,* Hutch replied.
Huggy translated as Dobey began to launch into a long-winded, big-worded, official-sounding speech. Two sentences in, he spluttered to silence, noticing the informant's hands had stilled. "You're not translating."
"You're not talkin'."
Huggy shifted position and pointed a long finger at Dobey. "You heard me. You're not talkin'. You're makin' noise and blowin' hot air, but you're not talkin'. Let me try." He turned back to Hutch. *What Marshall's trying to say is that he give it a lot of thought and he got something to give you.*
Starsky and Hutch looked at each other, then back at Dobey. *Do tell?* Hutch said warily.
Dobey flipped a wallet to Hutch, who caught it neatly. Inside was his detective shield and ID -- with the words "Special Investigations" stamped across it. A similar one was flipped to Starsky.
"Special Investigations?" Starsky frowned. "What..."
"It's a new bureau within the police department," Dobey said. "I've been put in charge of it, and I can hand-pick my team. We deal with investigations that are only halfway on the street -- no undercover work --" he looked at Hutch. "-- things that hearing is not really necessary for."
Hutch's eyes widened as the implications of the offer sank in. *You're giving me my job back.*
Dobey shrugged. "You're still a police officer. The pay's still the same, the hours are the same. But your --- uhm --"
"Difference," Huggy supplied.
"Difference -- won't be as much of a difference there. What do you say?"
Hutch looked at Starsky -- then at Honey. *...I want to...but what about --*
Before he could go on, Dobey held up a hand. "I think I know what you're saying, Hutchinson. Please tell Honey to come to me?"
A second later, Honey was in front of Dobey. He knelt down and attached something to her collar. She yipped and licked his face. He laughed as he stood up.
Hutch called Honey to him, and knelt in front of her. His eyes were huge as his head snapped up.
Starsky stood. *What's wrong?*
*A police shield,* Hutch told him. *Honey's a police dog!*
"A police dog?" Starsky replied, stunned.
Dobey nodded. "She's as much Hutchinson's partner as you are, Starsky. So she's now part of your team." He turned gruff. "And I expect all three of you in my office at nine AM Monday morning, got it?"
"*Yes, sir!*" Starsky and Hutch replied together, and Honey barked twice as if in reply.
Dobey cleared his throat and walked out the door. Huggy leaned forward and signed, knowing both would understand him, *My place tonight. Nine o'clock. We're gonna celebrate!*
Hutch grinned. *You got it, Huggy.*
Once they were alone again, Starsky and Hutch found themselves grinning rather foolishly at each other. *I can't believe it.* Hutch shook his head, sinking into a chair. *I was so worried that this --* he gestured at his nonfunctioning ears and throat *-- was going to sink my police career....and somehow he found a way!*
Starsky smiled larger. *I knew he would. Dobey's a good sort.*
*You had something to do with it, didn't you? Mister 'I won't be partners with anyone but Hutch'.*
The raven-haired detective's shoulder lifted in a shrug. *I can't tell Dobey how to run his station.*
Hutch smiled. *So what do you want to do to celebrate?*
*Go to Huggy's at nine.* Starsky stood up. *In the meantime...*
*In the meantime?*
*What do you say we throw out the rabbit food and go find some nice, juicy hamburgers?*
*Sounds good.* Hutch stood up. *I know this new soy burger place that's opened up a few streets over....*
Starsky seemed to visibly deflate. *Hutch....*
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